With Schools Going Online, Children Have Been Pushed Deeper Into The Realms Of The Digital World: Venkat Krishnapur, McAfee India

In an exclusive interaction with BW Education, Venkat Krishnapur, Vice President of Engineering and Managing Director, McAfee India, talked about the firm and its efforts in ensuring cybersecurity. Excerpts from the interview:

How is COVID-19 disrupting McAfee, and how are you dealing with this?  

Through the course of the last few months, we have witnessed disruptive changes - some imminent, some permanent. At McAfee, we provide security solutions to over 97 million enterprise endpoints, which include 75% of the world’s Fortune 500 firms. For our customers, maintaining Business Continuity is vital, and we are well equipped to help keep their services up and running. All our critical teams - engineering, R&D, customer support, operations have turned remote in our pursuit to keep our employees and customers safe.  

At McAfee, we have rebuilt all key systems in the cloud. We are a company that does both - use and sell cloud services. Our cloud-native investments are certainly delivering value for us during this time.  

McAfee products and tools provide our employees with a secure environment to work remotely. We have a robust set of SaaS applications that help our employees get work done without hassle. We are collectively working towards developing stronger defences to ascertain the ‘future of work’ is a secure one.  

Through various initiatives, we have ensured that our employees have been taken care of mentally and physically. To help employees cope with the current scenario, we routinely arrange engagement sessions on mental wellbeing, nutrition, ergonomics, and parenting. 

What kind of innovations has been brought in, considering the exponential growth in the use of digital platforms and hence more risk of cyber safety/security?  

The exponential growth in online activity has presented hackers with new avenues to exploit, as millions continue to work and study remotely. At McAfee, we believe in leading with security and empowering enterprise innovation, and the pandemic has only reinforced our mission. Innovation is at the heart of what we do, and true to that testament, the largest global development hub – the MIC (McAfee India Centre) is located in Bangalore. India plays a vital role in the development of almost every product and service offering. New products, patents, and inventions are offshoots of our innovation-driven culture. 

This week, we announced the enhancement to consumer security portfolio to keep up with the evolving threats faced by today’s digital-savvy users. Our solutions provide seamless user experience and features including integrated social media, advanced malware detection and tech scam protection—all of which are imperative security essentials today.   

Our new educational offering empowers schools as they adjust to new ways of learning. The McAfee Secure School Suites is a comprehensive, on-device, machine learning-based security solution, that addresses key safety concerns, preventing any disruption to e-learning.  

Our latest endpoint security innovation - MVISION Insights, is an industry-first proactive security solution that changes the cybersecurity paradigm by helping stop threats before the attack. Built entirely in India, it delivers actionable threat intelligence so organizations can pre-empt an attack rather than scramble to contain a breach. 

Our live COVID-19 Threat Dashboard illustrates, in real-time, the number and type of cyberthreats prevalent during the pandemic across the globe. This allows users to understand the total threat environment, informing them of potential threats before they are weaponized.   

Our Unified Cloud Edge solution that is a combination of DLP (Data Leakage Protection), MVision Cloud and Web Gateway is a perfect solution in this environment where people are working from home and ensures both cloud and endpoint data are protected.   

The End Point Detection and Response and End Point Protection address the need of the hour in terms of being able to protect the endpoints with the most innovative technology that uses AI and Machine learning to enable both pro-active and re-active detection of threats.

What kind of digital awareness is required at present? 

If you haven’t given your online security much attention in the new normal, when the world has gone digital in a matter of months, things need to change. People’s behaviour plays an important role in the success of cyberattacks, especially considering that everyone, including children now use digital technologies both in their private and academic life. With schools going online, children have been pushed deeper into the realms of the digital world.  

Parents and teachers need to inform children about the implications of their online actions and probable consequences. An important step to help children navigate the web safely is discussing scams and risks like phishing, identity theft, sextortion and cyberbullying. Formulating a set of tech safety rules for kids to abide by, will help inculcate the right approach at an early age.  

Help kids double-check their social media accounts to ensure optimum privacy settings and delete any post that gives away personal information. If they experience or witness negative behaviour like cyberbullying or trolling, it is essential that kids have first-hand knowledge to take the right actions. Installing comprehensive security software is an easy way to ensure your and your children’s online life is as secure as possible. Awareness not only about digital safety, it is also promoting and teaching self-regulation, because internet safety goes beyond protecting devices – it is a mindset. 

We are all aware of social distancing. But there is a new term being used these days – ‘cyber distancing’. What does it really mean and how can we ensure the same?  

While we utilise social distancing as an effective tool in abating the virus, cyber distancing is much the same. Instead of physical precautions, the focus is on laying in place the right protocols to mitigate risks in the digital world. Digital distancing simply put, is recognizing threats beforehand and maintaining our distance from them.  

Just like we have restricted our interactions with people, it’s imperative to restrict engagement with anything and anyone online. Employ a Zero Trust mindset - Trust no one and treat everyone as potentially compromised, at all times. Verifying rather than trusting helps ensure safety online.  

Just like the real world, beware of ‘digital stranger danger’ in the virtual one. Online predators create friendly online profiles just to lure children. Teach kids not to share photos or information with strangers online, no matter how much they insist. Younger kids must be wary of websites and downloads. Educating your children about kid-friendly browsers, learning apps and social networks that help them collaborate and learn while ensuring digital safety can be an effective way of cyber distancing.

What suggestions do you have for kids, to learn safely through online mode?  

As students and teachers operate from less controlled networks outside of school, the need to educate them on overall cybersecurity hygiene becomes imperative. Online scams succeed because they ride on kids’ emotional vulnerabilities and behavioural constraints. Making kids aware of basic online safety protocols will go a long way in ensuring smooth and superior learning outcomes. 

  • Take password protection seriously – Students tend to utilize the same password or variations of it across all their digital accounts. Should one account be compromised, diversifying passcodes ensures hackers do not obtain access to all your accounts. Always ensure that your password is strong, complex, and unique across devices. Use known password managers to help manage your online authentication experience. 

  • Look out for red flags - If you receive any message asking for your login credentials, go directly to the company’s website or app. Never click unsolicited links included in emails,  text messages, or screen pop-ups. Even if you know the sender, scrutinize the email/text before you reply 

  • Don’t be a tool fool – As children adapt to remote learning, they are likely to download various online tools that aid their learning. Before downloading any extensions or tools from the internet, do your research and check for any possible security vulnerabilities

  • Netiquette – It is necessary for children to understand that it is normal for people to have a difference in opinions, more so online. Making them aware of ‘netiquette’ or simply digital etiquette helps them understand the need for responsible behaviour  

  • Cautious information sharing – While learning online, there could be instances where children are required to exchange information with their peers. Ensure that any information shared online is not sensitive in nature. Using security tools with parental controls like McAfee® Safe Family on all internet-enabled devices helps monitoring children online in addition to having endpoint malware and data protection across all your devices. 

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